Brea and I have always encouraged our children to read a variety of books. On one hand, Brea was a huge reader growing up–choosing to spend time in the book mobile from the time it arrived until it departed. On the other hand, I enjoyed reading until I decided I wanted to rebel against my parents’ “reading time.” Although we had an entire library of interesting books to choose from in my home, I transformed my perspective on reading from “fun” to “forced.” That was just one of the many weird things I decided to rebel against during my preteen and early teen years. Thankfully, I matured (a little) and regained my love for reading by junior year of high school.
Our reading strategy.
As parents, we decided that reading would be one of our main priorities. Even so, we do our best not to order our children to read; instead, we create opportunities for them to enjoy quiet recreational time before bed. They usually write, color, read, or play with their toys quietly in their separate rooms during this “wind down” time. We found that each of them are more inclined to enjoy reading when they didn’t feel forced to read. With that in mind, we always try to strategically purchase books that align their interests with the values we teach in our home. Recently, I slightly deviated from this plan after I found and began reading the book, “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations” by Alex Harris and Brett Harris.
Honestly, I found this book on accident while looking for another book with a similar title. However, I knew this book was a great read for both me and my oldest daughter (recently turned 13) after I read the first four chapters! The irony is not lost on me that I–the prior rebellious teen–have handed my daughter a book about becoming a “rebellious teen.” Of course as the title reveals, the kind of rebellion I’m encouraging is against low expectations and harmful stereotypes. I encouraged my daughter to reflect on what she’s learning and how she can apply what she reads.
The elephant analogy.
Alex and Brett lead in with an “elephant” analogy I have heard and read several times. Similar to the “grasshopper in a jar” analogy, Alex and Brett explain that trained elephants are often restrained using only a small rope. As with every other time I’ve heard this analogy, I interpreted that I should not allow artificial or superficial constraints to limit my potential. I handed my daughter the book thinking that was the same message she’d receive. To my surprise, here’s what she wrote.:
Some people are like elephants; they are strong, smart, and hold potential, but sometimes they have to be held down by a rope. Elephants can escape from a small rope, but they have to be trusted to do what’s right.Brilee (13)
Constraints vs Tethers.
My brand new teen daughter taught me a valuable lesson on perspective. Some of us view the proverbial rope as a constraint. This rope can and will stop us from achieving greatness. It makes us think less of ourselves and keeps us from achieving our true potential. Others, like my thirteen year-old daughter, view the rope as a tether.
I use the specific word “tether,” because it has multiple definitions. One definition in Merriam-Webster states, “a line (as of rope or chain) by which an animal is fastened so as to restrict its range of movement.” People like Brilee use the second definition: “a line to which someone or something is attached (as for security).” The easily recognizable difference between the two definitions is the connection’s purpose. One is used to restrict while the other is used to secure. To “secure” is to, “fix or attach (something) firmly so that it cannot be moved or lost.”
Bringing it all together
I’m so proud that I was able to learn a valuable lesson from my teen’s perspective of a well-known analogy! Many of us view the proverbial rope as a limitation. Even so, Brilee reminded us that it can be a firm connection to our values. Life presents so many obstacles that at times, we choose to take the easiest path. Unfortunately, the easiest path isn’t always the one that aligns with our values.
Brilee’s perspective is a gentle reminder that we must identify and commit to the principles that drive our daily decisions. We have to remember our purpose and allow our moral compass to direct our judgement. This is what will inform our decisions when we have the opportunity to cut corners or cheat.
Brilee, thank you for encouraging me to remain committed to my guiding principles regardless of how hard it may be!
Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful holiday weekend!